Income tax increase likely to have political fallout

Protesters made their feelings known at the City-County Council meeting.
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Mary Milz/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - Property taxes aren't the only taxes going up. Monday night the Indianapolis City County Council voted 15-13 to raise county income taxes .65 percent to pay for the mayor's crime-fighting plan.

The vote drew protests and promises of political repercussions come November. The day after, Republican Scott Keller and other councilors were still receiving angry e-mails.

"I am absolutely livid about the vote to increase our income taxes..." began one. Another started, "The condescending and arrogant attitude of the council last night was embarrassing."

Several people who attended the council meeting wore shirts or held signs that said, "Boot Bart," and "Remember in November."

"It's like the mafia or something. They don't care about the people," said Sahara Williams, an Indianapolis resident.

Coming on the heels of a huge jump in property taxes, the mayor admitted, "The timing couldn't be worse (to raise income taxes) but we had no choice."

IUPUI Professor of Political Science Bill Blomquist said, "There are definitely political implications."

Not so much for the seemingly unbeatable mayor, Blomquist said, "but for his one-seat Democratic majority council, who largely supported the plan."

"The council members are more vulnerable because they don't have the name recognition and financial resources of the mayor," Blomquist said, "So, if anyone's really on the line about [the vote] it's the individual councilors who voted for the increase."

Keller was one of two Republicans who voted for the hike. The other, Lance Langsford, isn't running for re-election. Keller said he's not worried about any fallout. He said his district has the highest crime rate in the county.

"I assure you many (in his district) were for it because they saw where the money was going. They hate the tax, but they like the result," Keller said.

Democrats Dane Mahern and Sherron Franklin voted against the increase. Both face tight races, with Franklin in a district that leans Republican. An Indianapolis police officer, Franklin said it wasn't hard saying no to a tax hike, even one for public safety.

"People come first, politics come second. And we have to remember not everyone out there makes $50,000. Some are making $20,000 or $18,000 and they have families and you have to take all that into consideration," Franklin said. "I just don't think it's fiscally responsible to give two tax increases back to back."

Blomquist said the anger over taxes (both property and income) has already helped one candidate, Greg Ballard, the Republican running for mayor.

"For Greg Ballard, lightning strikes and you get an opportunity, an opportunity to get a little more press coverage, to have people want your take on an issue," he said.

But will people actually remember in November? Keller said, "I think people in those areas hit hardest, like Meridian-Kessler and Butler Tarkington, if they're not satisfied that there will be a reduction in their taxes (due to reassessment) the tendency will be to 'throw out the bums.'"

With more than three months until Election Day, Blomquist said he believes it depends largely on whether Marion County Republicans can mount enough opposition "that reminds people of this vote and connects it to the election in November."

See what other Indiana counties have adopted the county income tax